Biodiversity Profile of Phytotelmata of The Southern Western Ghats, and The Use of Tree Crab Kani Maranjandu Kumar, Raj & Ng, 2017, as an Indicator of Ecosystem Health
Keywords:Kani maranjandu, Phytotelmata, Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve, Bioindicator, Ecosystem management
Kani maranjandu Kumar, Raj & Ng, 2017 (Gecarcinucidae) is India’s first tree-climbing crab reported from the Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve (ABR), Southern Western Ghats. This unique arboreal species uses phytotelmata or water-filled tree holes as their habitat. The species has been reported from the phytotelmata of trees of evergreen and adjacent semi-evergreen forest covers across the ABR. Phytotelmata being an aquatic microcosm, serves as a discrete ecosystem. It harbours a diverse range of taxa, dominated by insect larvae, crustaceans and amphibians interacting with each other within this small ecosystem. The highly selective habitat requirements of Kani maranjandu eventually highlights their importance as indicator species, which can showcase the health and productivity of the forest ecosystem. The multifaceted role of Kani maranjandu as a key constituent of phytotelmic container habitat has been evaluated. The eligibility criteria for a bio-indicator have been assessed for this crab species and found fit as a biological indicator towards manifesting the productivity of the forest ecosystem. Kani maranjandu, as indicator species, can judge the quality of the container habitat and forest ecosystem, and changes happening over time. Any unusual environmental stress or impact influence subsequent changes in the biotic responses of the animal to look into ecosystem stability. Estimating the ecological stressors and devising the indicator species towards monitoring plans and management measures promotes successful conservation and appropriate management of the ecosystem’s biodiversity. The study further suggests conserving larger trees in degraded forests through eco-restoration efforts, besides considering this ubiquitous species as an indicator of ecosystem health.